Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia’s giant state oil company finally kick-started its initial public offering (IPO) on Sunday, announcing its intention to float on the domestic bourse in what could be the world’s biggest listing as the kingdom seeks to diversify its economy away from oil.
But in its long-awaited announcement, Aramco, the world’s most profitable company, offered few specifics on the number of shares to be sold, pricing or the date for a launch.
Bankers have told the Saudi government that investors will likely value the company at around USD 1.5 trillion, below the USD 2 trillion valuation touted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he first floated the idea of an IPO nearly four years ago.
Aramco also did not mention what measures it has taken to beef up security following unprecedented attacks on its oil plants in September.
Sources have told Reuters the oil company could offer 1 per cent-2 per cent of its shares on the local bourse, raising as much as USD 20 billion to USD 40 billion. A deal over USD 25 billion would top the record-breaking one of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA.N) in 2014.
“Today is the right opportunity for new investors to reap the benefits of Aramco’s ability to achieve value, and boost it on the long-term,” Aramco Chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan told a news conference at the company’s headquarters in the eastern city of Dhahran.
The company will spend the next 10 days talking to investors and sounding out their interest and the price range will follow, he said.
The IPO is designed to turbocharge Prince Mohammed’s ambitious economic reform agenda by raising billions to build non-energy industries and diversify revenue streams.
Rumayyan said a decision on an international listing for Aramco shares will be made in the future, without giving a time frame or possible venue.
“Selling a small piece of Aramco in a captive market gives the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) more control to prop the value of Aramco up over its fair value,” said Gary Ross, CEO at Black Gold Investors.
Confirmation of the sale of shares in the oil giant, whose formal name is Saudi Arabian Oil Co, comes about seven weeks after the crippling attacks on its oil facilities, underlining Saudi Arabia’s determination to push on with the listing regardless.
Aramco said it does not expect the September 14 attacks, which targeted plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry and initially halved its production, would have a material impact on its business, operations and financial condition.